California Wildfires Leave Cannabis Growers Quaking in their Boots

In the aftermath of the recent California wildfires, it is now clear that thousands of cannabis growers have lost their livelihoods, as the flames swept through the Emerald Triangle. In an unfortunate chain of events, it appears that many of these growers whose homes were lost to the flames, also lost their lives.

In the wake of the devastating wildfires in Northern California, many cannabis farmers are left wondering what the future holds for their crop. Most of the cannabis in the affected areas is from wild, non-controllable sources, and is not certified by any labs to be in the edible range. The crops will take a while to regrow in a short-term sense, but in a long-term sense, the weed could be a valuable asset in the coming years.

Wildfires have been raging in the islands of California, and some of the firefighters have been using cannabis to relieve their smoke-filled lungs. In a state where over a dozen counties have banned the herb, the firefighters have been using the smoke from the fires to help them relax and get some R&R.

Cannabis growers in California, where legal cannabis sales are expected to exceed $2.2 billion in 2020, are becoming more worried about their products’ destiny. More than a dozen wildfires are now raging throughout the state, with more than 350,000 people living in “high risk” fire zones.

2.7 million individuals of the state’s 40 million inhabitants are thought to live in “extremely high fire danger intensity zones.” Cannabis growers are prepared to say farewell to their crops as firefighters battle to control the fast-spreading blaze in California—8,100 wildfires occurred during the 2020 wildfire season, scorching almost 4.5 million acres of land—

Even when crops are grown hundreds of kilometers away from the disaster zone, flame-released chemicals may have a detrimental effect on crop and plant development, according to a worrying 2018 research on wildfires. This is a major issue for cannabis farmers and producers in California, which is known for its wildfires, which are usually sparked by lightning, dry weather, arsonist activity, sparks from heavy-duty equipment (chainsaws, grinders, etc.) and defective overhead electrical lines. 

The State of California has a 90-year record for wildfires.

The Matilija Fire, which killed eight people and burnt over 220,000 acres of Ventura County in September 1932, was one of the earliest wildfires in California. Since the year 2000, “The Golden State” has been ravaged by the world’s biggest wildfires. The Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018 and the L.N.U. Lightning Complex Fire in 2020 were the most destructive wildfires, with the latter destroying 363,220 acres of land.

California’s terrain, which spans approximately 100 million acres, was considerably more resistant to flames prior to the 1800s. Despite this, a total of 4.4 million acres (1.8 million hectares) of forest and shrubland burned each year, owing mostly to the state’s dry, hot, and windy weather. Since 2000, fires have destroyed up to 1.59 percent of California’s entire land area.

When cannabis plants are exposed to wildfire smoke, they may experience stress or die prematurely. 

With a market worth $6.59 billion by 2025, it’s no surprise that California’s wildfires are causing concern among industry participants, such as growers and producers. This is particularly true for those who operate in greenhouses and outside farms, where fire residue may have a detrimental effect on consumer health as well as laboratory testing processes. 


Even if cannabis that has been burned is considered acceptable for retail sale, it may not be appropriate for consumption or extraction. The most serious danger to cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities is smoke pollution. Natural timbers that have been pressure-treated with chemicals like arsenic, chromium, and copper azole, for example, may contaminate cannabis crops with ash and soot residue, as well as act as a fire-retardant. 

California’s wildfires may cause cannabis lab testing to fail.

Cannabis growers in California must comply with testing requirements for hazardous substances and residual solvents. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that toxic compounds produced by wildfires, such as benzene, dioxins, and hydrogen cyanide, may result in a regulatory test and/or pesticide test failure, putting a cannabis producer at risk. 

Furthermore, when there is a lot of fire smoke in the air, UV ray plant exposure is reduced. Lydia Abernethy, Director of Cultivation Science at Steep Hill Labs, believes this. Key plant development activities including photosynthesis, transpiration, and stomatal conductance may be inhibited as a direct result of fire smoke pollution. 

Apart from intense rivalry, California’s cannabis growers face many challenges. Farmers should examine their “plan B” for coping with fire and smoke damage now that the wildfire situation seems to have no end in sight. When exposed to airborne contaminants, cannabinoid and plant growth levels may be stunted, posing a health danger to users.

In the interim, growers are encouraged to choose an alternate growing site (if feasible). Alternatively, thorough testing to establish the degree of contamination should be carried out. Keep in mind that location and wind direction are significant factors in determining whether or not a cannabis farm is in danger; preparation is essential, especially because plants may be moved to a safer place if a fire threat arises.

Check out the interactive map provided by the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation for an up-to-date picture of fire activity. The map is also available on the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources webpage at the University of California.


Bethan Rose is a cannabis activist, writer, and nomad who has no fixed address. She is now living in Bali and can typically be found on her hammock collecting cannabis material.

It has been nearly a month since devastating wildfires swept through Northern California, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee entire neighborhoods. When the smoke cleared, it was clear that the region had suffered the most destructive fires in its history.. Read more about cultivation license california and let us know what you think.

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